Clad in an “Osariya” and draped in traditional jewelry, the Kandyan bride stands as a window in to the soul of Sri Lanka. She represents the traditions, culture and beliefs of the Sinhala Buddhist of this island nation.
The main attire of a traditional Kandyan bride is the 6 yard saree draped in the Sri Lankan traditional way called “Osariya”. The common colors used by brides range from white to biscuit brown and any shade in between. This wedding saree could be a simple saree with gold or silver thread work or a heavily embroidered saree piled up with rhinestones, sequins and pearls depending on the brides choice. Today the brides opt for the more modern approach or the ready-made saree called “made up osariya” which consists of 4 parts namely, jacket, the shoulder drape (Pota), the Neriya a peplum shaped piece which is tied around the waist and the wrap around skirt.
The most attractive element of a Kandyan bride is her Jewelry. She has to bear the weight of about 26+ pieces of jewelry (NO kidding) from head to waist on her special day!.
Her hair will be in a low bun and the bun will be decorated with white color flowers, flower buds and different ornaments such as the traditional “Konda kura”.
The Brides’ head is then decorated with the “Nalal patiya” which is a head ornament with three long chains attached to a middle pendent. The middle pendent is kept at the center of her forehead and two of the chains go along the side and one along the middle of her head. On the day of the wedding the brides’ mother will place the “Nalal patiya” and pin it to her hair at a given “nakatha” (auspicious time) as an act of giving her blessings. This piece of jewelry is considered as one of the most important pieces in the Kandyan jewelry culture as once it was worn by kings and royalty on special occasions and it is used to distinguish the bride from others since only she is allowed to wear it. Till date young unmarried girls are discouraged from wearing it before her wedding day as according to local beliefs it brings bad luck upon her. Apart from the “Nalal Patiya” two circular shaped pendants that represent the sun and the moon called “Ira, Handa“are also pinned to her hair on either side of the middle chain. They are thought to symbolize the hope for an eternal happy marriage.
The earrings worn by the Kandyan bride are called “Dimiti” and they are long hanging earrings with chains of pearls suspending from a upturned cup shaped base.
The most significant part of Kandyan bridal jewelry is the set on necklaces which traditionally consists of a “Karapatiya”, paddakkam necklaces, palakkan necklace, pethi male and agasti male. It is believed that the reason to wear so many necklaces is to word off evil eye from the bride.
Karapatiya is a choker necklaces of a sort with a large pendent in the middle.
A kandyan bride is supposed to wear 7 pendents (Hath male) on her wedding day and this includes the pendent from Nalal patiya, karapatiya and 5 pendents from the padakkam mala. According to local beliefs these 7 pendents represents the blessings from seven generations of kin. All seven of these pendents are in most cases the same in design and traditionally these pendents would be in the shape of a swan or a pair of swans interlocked called hansa pottuwa but this design can change from set to set.
The padakkam necklaces are a set of 5 necklaces with pendent which have minor size differences and with different length chains.
Palakkan necklace is a long chain necklace with gold beads at even intervals.
Pethi male is the longest of the bunch and is made up of intricately carved floral designs. It is said that it represents a flower garland.
Agasti male is a long necklace made with agate stones but today brides opt for a variation called gedi male which is made with different colored stones and pearls. Some even opt to wear both.
The Kandyan bride wears two types of bracelets namely seli walalu and gedi walalu. Seli walalu is a broad bracelet with intricate detailed carvings and can be embedded with gem stones and the gedi walau is made up of a string of beads. Other than the bracelets the bride wears the “Atha mudu walalu” which is a hand ornament with a central pendent to which 5 chains are attached. Each of these chains are attached to a ring that goes on the fingers of the right hand of the bride.
Traditional brides wear an armlet made with small box like structures high on her arm which is said to ward off the evil. But today most brides don’t opt to wear it.
The last piece of jewelry worn by a Kandyan bride is the “Hawadiya” a chain like ornament which is draped around the waist on one side. The design and details of this piece can vary largely with some being simply a chain with beads and some being a complex set of chains intertwined with different motifs.
The Kandyan bride is not only a treat to once eyes but a rare insight in to a tradition that has been passed down through centuries and numerous generations. She is a living representation of the essence of Sri Lanka and all that she is made up of. So if you do come to Sri Lanka do try to crash a wedding party to witness this beauty in real life 😛
Feel free to comment down below what your thoughts are on the Kandyan bride and tell us about a bride that has stolen your heart !!
Until next time,